While the NHL Officials Association has been conspicuously silent in the wake of Dennis Wideman's assault of linesman Don Henderson Wednesday night, their brothers in stripes are speaking out about what they see as a growing wave of violence against the men and women who call our games.
“Heckling and verbal taunting have always been obstacles of the job, but intentional physical violence towards referees is escalating each year,” said National Basketball Referees Associaton general counsel Lee Seham. “The increasing number of attacks indicate a lack of respect from players, coaches and spectators for the job that referees perform.
“As professionals, referees represent an authority that is being blatantly disrespected. As human beings, referees are facing a troubling wave of increased hostility against them for just showing up to work,” said Seham. “We should condemn all physical assaults and excuses for attacks on these very real people. People seem to forget that—referees are real people.”
The association, which represents 63 active and 16 retired NBA officials, added in an unsigned editorial that it “applaud[s] the NHL in their swift and appropriate response to this act of aggression towards one of their game officials.”
Wideman has been suspended pending a Feb. 2 hearing with the league.
Active NHL officials rarely speak to the media, but they reportedly were reminded not to speak about the Wideman incident in an email sent out by the NHLOA on Thursday.